11 Chapters
Medium 9780253014184

11. The Debate over “Big” Government

Ballard C. Campbell Indiana University Press ePub

READ MY LIPS: no new taxes.” Taking a cue from a Clint Eastwood movie, George Herbert Walker Bush pledged to hold the line on taxes in his presidential nomination acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention in 1988. Bush’s promise is among the most memorable political remarks uttered in recent decades. His antitax stand echoed the advice of his predecessor Ronald Reagan and probably helped him beat Michael Dukakis, the Democratic presidential candidate, in 1988. But his “Read my lips” remark came back to haunt the president, who angered supporters by agreeing to tax increases in 1990. Although the president proposed to lower the budget deficit by both a reduction in spending and an increase in revenue, conservatives saw Bush’s budget maneuvering as a betrayal of his antitax pledge. Here was evidence for the Right that the president was not a real conservative. This resentment cost George H. W. Bush votes in 1992, when he lost his reelection bid to Bill Clinton and to Ross Perot, the billionaire independent candidate who focused on the deficit issue.

See All Chapters
Medium 9780253014184

8. Paying for Modern Government

Ballard C. Campbell Indiana University Press ePub

MODERN AMERICANS GRUMBLE when they must add a dime or more sales tax to the cost of a doughnut and a cup of coffee. The approach of April 15, when income tax reports are due, can bring on apprehensions. Life in the Cleveland era had its annoyances too, but paying taxes was not one of them for most people. The average worker paid no direct levies to the government. The explanation for this astonishing situation lies in the way government used to raise its revenue. In the late 1800s the public sector levied two principal taxes—one on property and the other on imported goods. Of the two, only the property tax was levied directly on individuals and then principally on the owners of real estate. But most Americans in 1900 did not own a home or land. Roughly two-thirds of householders in the cities, where most workers lived, were renters. And a third of all farmers were tenants working and living on land they did not own. Property taxes applied to business property too, but only a small fraction of the workforce owned commercial real estate and most who did were also homeowners. Simple arithmetic shows that only a minority of Americans paid property taxes, the largest levy in the republican era.

See All Chapters
Medium 9780253014184

5. The Managed Economy since the New Deal

Ballard C. Campbell Indiana University Press ePub

MAN, IT WAS the war time. There was jobs all over.” That’s how Muddy Waters remembered Chicago in 1943. On the day he arrived in the Windy City, Muddy found work at a box factory.1 The prospect of a steady job at decent wages had lured him out of Mississippi and the poverty that enveloped black farmhands in the river delta region. What Muddy Waters really wanted, however, was a paying audience to hear him play the blues. So he followed tens of thousands of blacks who quit the cotton fields along the lower reaches of the Mississippi River and went north in search of a better life.

Success to Muddy Waters was snaring a gig in a west side tavern at five dollars a night. Economists saw the mass migration of blacks out of the South as the tendency of labor to flow from low- to high-wage areas. World War II magnified the economic imbalances between regions, which in turn spawned internal migration. Government orders for military goods opened up new positions for men and women in the factories of the East and Midwest, in the shipyards of coastal cities, and in the aircraft plants of California. The creation of well-paying jobs induced a massive relocation of blacks and whites. This reshuffling of people across America was one of several momentous changes caused by the war.

See All Chapters
Medium 9780253014184

3. The Transition Era

Ballard C. Campbell Indiana University Press ePub

JULIAN WEST GAZED in amazement at his native Boston. It was not the city he remembered. Marvelous public structures adorned an immaculate landscape where hovels once stood. Doors were left unlocked because burglars no longer prowled the night; with “care and crime” abolished, thieves had vanished. The reconstruction of society had closed the chasm between the “wanton luxury” of the rich and the “general misery” of the masses. Now all members of a classless community shared equally in the nation’s expanded bounty. Who managed this utopia, Julian West asked? Government, his host replied. “The nation guarantees the nurture, education and comfortable maintenance of every citizen from the cradle to the grave.”1

This was Boston in the year 2000, more than a century after Julian West had fallen into a “mesmerized” sleep. The America he remembered had been torn by economic warfare, in which greedy entrepreneurs battled for financial survival. The winners of these wars had accumulated fortunes befitting royalty, but the cost of their victories was high. Economic titans had swallowed up competitors, allowing the control of industry to fall into “a few powerful hands.” In this “era of corporate tyranny,” many businesses transformed themselves into trusts and monopolies by forming syndicates and fixing prices. In this drive to crush rivals, corporate cutthroat competition had caused the “maim and slaughter” of workers and the waste of talent and resources. Capitalism of the Cleveland era thrived on the “brutal side of human nature.”

See All Chapters
Medium 9780253014184

2. The Course and Causes of Growth

Ballard C. Campbell Indiana University Press ePub

EIGHTEEN EIGHTY-SEVEN symbolizes the dawn of modern governance, when older ways of transacting civic affairs came into conflict with new demands on the uses of power. Grover Cleveland’s attack on the tariff in his 1887 address demonstrates the continued vitality of traditional axioms about good government. Wrapped in the rhetoric of republicanism, the president’s denunciation of public favoritism and high taxation showed his devotion to classical American ideals of limited government, fiscal parsimony, and strict dual federalism. These principles underlay his vetoes of spending bills and his passive reaction to the economic depression of the middle 1890s. To many contemporaries then and most historians later, Cleveland has been typed as a conservative whose style of leadership embodied “laissez-faire” government.

Yet the twenty-second president showed another side to his political personality, one that anticipated tendencies exhibited by later chief executives. Signs of this modern style appear in Cleveland’s State of the Union message in 1886. The president’s constitutional responsibility in the annual address includes the recommendation of measures that the chief executive deemed necessary and expedient. Cleveland drew up a long list of suggestions for Congress’s consideration. He urged better fortification of coastal and Great Lakes cities, modernization of the navy, extension of postal service, construction of the first Federal prison, reorganization of the Federal courts, and a policy that would induce American Indians to abandon tribal living. The president wanted legislation that would stop fraudulent acquisition of public lands, enlarge the Labor Bureau and authorize it to arbitrate worker grievances, arrest an infectious disease afflicting cattle, and fill the void created by the Supreme Court’s rejection of state regulation of railroads engaged in interstate commerce. He defended his vetoes of individualized pension bills for Civil War veterans by advocating a generalized program where “relief may be claimed as a right.” And he recommended Federal compensation for depositors in the Freedman’s Bank, a private institution whose financial collapse had stripped thousands of former slaves of their hard-earned savings.

See All Chapters

See All Chapters